DISCLAIMER: The Star Trek characters are the property of Paramount Studios, Inc. The story contents are the creation and property of Sharron Powell and T'Eros and is copyright (c) 1999 by Sharron Powell and T'Eros. This story is Rated NC17 for sexual situations..

The Goodbye

Sharron Powell and T'Eros

Laughing voices and gesturing people were having conversations all around her, but Christine Chapel wasn't paying attention to any of them. No matter that it was her own going away party. She was looking for someone. Someone she hadn't really expected to show up, but had to look for all the same.


A weathered hand fell onto her shoulder and Christine turned toward the voice. A voice more familiar than her own father's. "Yes, Doctor?"

McCoy tut-tutted her. "Now, Chris. You don't have to call me that now. You're a junior colleague ... "

"A very junior colleague," Chris interrupted facetiously, smiling back at him fondly. "I don't start med school 'til next week."

"Don't interrupt your elders, missy," McCoy said with mock gruffness as he snaked his hand along her shoulders and hugged her to him. "As I was saying, you're a colleague now, so you get to call me Leonard."

Christine hugged him back for a second before moving away slightly and looking him in the eye. "Thank you for the party, Leonard. It's been wonderful." She smiled at him for a second more before resuming her scan of the room.

McCoy followed her gaze out among the revelers. "Yeah, it has. I had nothin' to do with it, mind you. It was all Uhura's doin'. I just brought the guest of honor." He glanced down at his favorite nurse, who hadn't responded to his words at all, but who instead was still scanning the room, pensively. "Still looking for Spock?"

"Hmm?" Christine asked, not meeting his eyes. "Spock? I guess I am. Silly, huh, after all this time. I just hoped ... "

Her words ran out as she shrugged in resignation and McCoy wanted to strangle that pointy eared son of a Vulcan. The damned ungrateful ... His mental tirade petered out as Chapel pulled away from him, squaring her shoulders and moving toward the middle of the room. Wondering what she was up to, he slowly sauntered over to Jim Kirk who was leaning against the wall closest to the intercom, his arms crossed, his eyes keen as he looked at the interaction of his crew.

"She was looking for Spock, wasn't she, Bones?" Kirk said quietly as they watched Chapel grab Uhura's hand and pull her closer to the center of the room and the cake, presents, and punch that were situated on a round table.

McCoy unconsciously mimicked the arms crossed stance of his captain and friend as he grimaced and grunted an affirmative.

Kirk sighed. "You know what he said, Bones. He had an experiment in a critical stage ... "

"Bull," McCoy tersely replied as they watched Chapel trying to signal for quiet, unsuccessfully as the conversations flowed on around her unabated. "He could've come. He just preferred to be a logical, ungrateful, unfeeling bas--"

"Bones," Kirk cut in quickly. "You know he's uncomfortable ... " His defense of his first officer and best friend was cut off as they heard a loud whistle, which startled the crowd into silence. And them too, though he and McCoy were too cool to start at the sound.

"Now then," Chapel was saying in a voice that made both McCoy and Kirk smile at its forcefulness. "Now that I have your attention." She was smiling at the room in cheerful exasperation. "I wanted to propose a toast." She looked around the room and her eyes softened as she looked on her friends and shipmates. When she stared speaking again, her voice was softer and more serious.

"I think that most of you know how I came to be aboard this ship." Chapel looked around and found the eyes of her captain, silently commiserating for a second at the remembered pain of her Roger's death those many years ago.

"I stayed because of you. Your friendship." And she looked down at her best friend Uhura and squeezed her hand. "Your camaraderie ... and the utter inability that most of you have of knowing when to eat." Christine swung her gaze around to look at Ensign Garrovick who raised a hand behind his head and scratched the back of his neck sheepishly as the rest of the crew laughed.

"I've loved every minute of my time here and so I want to propose a toast." And at this she turned her face back in the direction of McCoy and Kirk. "To the finest Chief Medical Officer ... " She smiled at her long time superior. "...First Officer," and at this her eyes grew haunted for a moment before alighting on Kirk, "and Captain, that any person has ever had the honor of serving and to the ship that surrounds us all." She raised the glass solemnly and all over the room glasses followed hers into the air. "To the Enterprise."

"To the Enterprise!" The company said as one before drinking their punch (or stronger drinks) in tribute. Wading into the respectful silence that followed, Kirk cleared his throat for attention.

"And to the woman who's seen all our scars, patched up our wounds," and at that, he ran a hand over his still sore shoulder and grimaced while his crew laughed, remembering his latest tussle with hostile enemies. "And listened to us complain without once telling us to 'heal ourselves'. To our Head Nurse, who is leaving us sorry excuses for patients to become a doctor." And at this the crew cheered as he raised his glass. "To Christine."

"To Christine!"

* * *

The next few hours found Christine swiftly moving about her quarters, packing the gifts that she and Uhura had brought from the party. She smiled at some of the gifts. What she was going to do with a skull from Leonard's collection and a bottle of Saurian brandy, she didn't know. She smiled as she laid the bottle and the skull between layers of clothes to protect them during their journey.

Then she reached up and took down her picture of her family which had been one of the few adornments to her wall. With it her packing was complete ... and she looked around her room to find it as sterile and cold as the day she had entered it. No proof remained that she had ever been here.

She shook her head at her morbid thought. She knew that she had been here. That's all that mattered. The memories. In the end, they were all you had. People left you. Things could break. But your memories were yours forever.

And she had good memories here. She could be proud of her work here.

She sat down at her desk and put her head in her hands. She looked around, as if searching for something. She was finished. She could leave at anytime. So why hadn't she called Uhura yet and told her to meet her in the transporter room? What was she waiting for?

Spock ...

As she had told Leonard at the party, it was silly. If he had intended on coming to see her, he would have done it by now, she was sure. He wasn't one to procrastinate. She had to assume that he didn't wish to see her. To say goodbye. It seemed that he wanted this chapter in their lives to pass unnoticed.

It was a pity and a shame.

She'd thought they had gotten past the reticence after Platonius. She'd told him that she would never purposefully make him uncomfortable or embarrass him and he had said that peace of mind or the lack of it came from within and that she had never embarrassed him. If he'd ever been uncomfortable around her, it was his fault only.

After that, their communication had been easier. He had started to treat here more like how he acted around Uhura. Comrades in arms. Oh, he knew that she still loved him, but he hadn't seemed to be so bent on providing himself a shield against it.

She thought back to a few weeks ago and that horrible trial that Spock had been subjected to by Janice Lester in Captain Kirk's body. Christine had sat beside him and he had not objected. She'd given him silent support as they all had and he hadn't rejected it. He'd needed it. And she was glad to have helped.

She sighed. This hadn't been the best of years for them all, no matter what she had said at the party. For Spock especially. She would have run through the series of strange mishaps and outright disasters that the Enterprise had seen this year but they would have only made her sad.

There was little time for that now anyway. She needed to get going. The Enterprise was set to leave soon and she needed to settle in at her hotel room on Pacifica. One day there and then a transport ship would arrive to take her and many other passengers to Earth. To her new life ... or her interrupted one, as it were. She was looking forward to finishing her studies that she'd put on hold, these seven years ago now. Seven years ...

It had taken her four years to maneuver her way into Starfleet and the right assignment on the Enterprise to search for Roger. Another year for them to reach Exo III with the unpredictability of the Enterprise's travels.

Five years ... only to find him dead. Worse than dead. She knew that the others had never understood her reasons. They were simple, really. She had pledged her life to his when she had agreed to marry him. It was as simple as that. And she had loved him ...

She thought again of Spock and she hurt for him. She loved him too. During that five years of searching for one love, she had instead found another being with the gentle honesty and curiosity that she found instantly appealing.

A being who was so starved for love ... she could see that in him and her heart ached for him. But it was his decision.

She couldn't force him to accept her love as the gift she had intended it to be. He needed it, needed someone who didn't demand something from him. She had thought that here, at the end, he had been close to seeing that.

But this avoidance of her seemed a throwback to his more closed-off self. She could only imagine what in his upbringing made him so prone to pull back at the first hint of emotional discomfort or perceived pain, even though there was none on her end.

She was glad to have met him, glad to have been aboard this ship. There was no pain, no regret. Or at least not much, she smiled to herself, though she would miss the Enterprise, and Leonard, and him terribly.

She had learned a lot and made great friends and was returning to her chosen field with a clear conscience and a sense of accomplishment. She hadn't deserted Roger. She hadn't turned into a cold person, afraid to love again. Proof of his death had given her the freedom to start again, as selfish as that may sound. She knew Roger would have understood.

She had helped to save lives and give comfort. She had seen wonderful things here in space. These past seven years had not been wasted. A detour, sure. But detours could be good for you. And she knew that she would be a better doctor, a better person because of her time on the Enterprise.

She had wanted to explain that to Spock, to communicate that to him. Now she wouldn't have the chance.

She sighed again, thinking of what might have been. Of how good they could have been together.

It was his loss.

She could only take care of herself. That was the other thing that she had learned these years in space. She couldn't make his burdens easier. He had to do that for himself.

And with that she rose and looked around one last time, touching her desk in fond goodbye. With a flick of her wrist, she called Uhura and asked her to meet her. Then without another look back, she was gone.

It was time to leave.

* * *

It hadn't taken Christine long to say goodbye to Uhura. Or to Leonard, who showed up unexpectedly to say goodbye again. He had gently asked about Spock and she had said that if Spock was uncomfortable, then she was glad that he hadn't come. She didn't want her last memory of him to be him looking at her as if someone had forced him to see her, like a little boy being forced to attend Sunday dinner.

McCoy had started in on one of his tirades but Christine had stopped him, saying that it was his life and that she wished Spock only happiness and that she wanted to see McCoy smile at her once more before she went.

And he had and then he'd swept her up in a massive hug that threatened to force all the air out of her lungs and he'd told her to write him or else he'd come there and get her himself.

And she had cried and laughed, then cried and laughed some more as she hugged Nyota who had stood by her as a sister all of these years. And at that moment, she hadn't wanted to leave them, but she had forced herself on the transporter pad and with a watery smile had said energize.

And here she was.

Here she was in a lovely room in a small inn on Pacifica. The ocean at the window behind her and a bottle of spring wine from the southern region of the planet on her table in front of her.

She didn't care much for wine. Or for the gauzy lounging robe that Uhura had given her as part of her going away present. It wasn't her style. Christine was too pragmatic to have picked this excuse for a garment for herself.

But she had promised Nyota that she would wear it on her first night away from the ship to remind her that she was a woman and not just a Nurse, or a Lieutenant who was cramming for medical exams.

Of course, Christine thought as she lounged back on the long, heavenly soft couch and stretched, Nyota had meant for her to bring someone of the male persuasion here with her to see it instead of the medical textbook that was her only companion at the moment.

She had meant for Christine to wear only perfume underneath it instead of the matching underwear she had unearthed from her bag. She had meant for Chris to have fun ... and she was. She still loved learning and was looking forward to medical school with a glee she hadn't felt since her first days in college.

So if she had modified Uhura's prescription for 'romance by the surf' then it was too bad. She smiled. She still felt incredibly decadent in her sheer robe, sipping spring wine, and doing nothing but what she wanted. The idea of no patients to tend, of no pages to return, of no buzzers to answer ...

Her door buzzer sounded.

And with a sigh and a groan that she shouldn't have tempted fate, Christine went to answer with only a slight thought to her state of dress. Who, after all, could it be? Nobody she knew ... Probably the concierge ...

Or maybe ... it was the love of her life ... a tall, dark, handsome man out of a dream who would sweep her off her feet and make love to her until she couldn't think straight, Christine mused facetiously to herself as she reached the door. That would make Uhura happy ... and to be honest, it wouldn't make her so unhappy either ...

"Coming," Chris said in a louder than normal voice as she palmed the door lock to the open position. And stared at the tall, dark, handsome -- and slightly astonished -- Vulcan of her own dreams standing at the door with a disconcerted look on his face. Christine felt her own face flush with embarrassment as she asked the only question she could think of ...

"Spock! What are you doing here?"

As they stared at each other, Christine could see that he was flustered, though at her state of dress or her question, she'd have been hard put to answer. For a moment she thought that he wouldn't answer at all, but after a few more tense, increasingly uncomfortable seconds, he did.

"Forgive the intrusion," he said quietly, his face a mask of neutrality. "I should have realized that... Again, please forgive the intrusion ... " He broke off his statement and looked at her piercingly for a moment before averting his eyes and turning to go. Christine just stared at him for a second, confused by what he had stopped himself from saying. Then her eyes widened as she followed his logical train of thought ... her flimsy dress ... the wine on the table ...

Her face flushed in embarrassment as she hurried to stop him from leaving. "No, Mr. Spock ... you have it all wrong. Please. Come in." She wouldn't say more. He should be able to figure it out for himself. There was only one glass on the table after all.

She watched Spock turn back hesitantly into the room and she could feel his eyes following her as she deliberately moved to the sofa and picked up her medical text book, marking the page she had been on and setting it aside. She wanted desperately to change her clothes into something else -- this was worse than Platonius -- but if she moved, she would acknowledge that he might be embarrassed by seeing her in clothes like these ... which in turn would indicate that he cared one way or the other ... which would embarrass him more than if they pretended that she was in a uniform.

"Would you like something to drink, Mr. Spock?" she asked as he sat precisely on the edge of one of the straight-back chairs opposite her. Good, Chris. Fall back on inanities ...

"No, thank you, Miss Chapel. What I have to say will be brief. I apologize again for interrupting your studies."

"No need, Mr. Spock," Christine said equitably. "I needed a break anyway. But why are you here?" she asked, her face turning inquisitive. "I thought that the Enterprise was set to leave orbit at 1800 hours?" It was nearly 2100 now.

Spock steepled his fingers on his knees as he answered. "The Captain was called to a late meeting and decided to allow the crew some extra hours to 'shop until they drop', as the good doctor put it. We are set to leave orbit at 0800 tomorrow. But I am digressing ... "

He stared at his fingers for a few seconds more before he straightened himself in his chair and looked straight into her eyes. "I wish to apologize for my manners, Miss Chapel."

Christine stared at him. "Your manners?"

"Or lack of same, as the case may be," Spock continued as he watched her face become even more quizzical. "Specifically, my lack of attendance at your farewell earlier today." His voice was serious and penitent as if he had committed a cardinal sin.

Christine started to shake her head in negation. "Spock," she began. "There is no need for apologies." Looking at his stern face, she couldn't help feeling as if she had to reassure him. "The Captain said that you had an experiment in a critical stage. I quite understand. There's no problem." And although none of them had believed the statement for a moment, she had no wish to dispute it now. It didn't matter why he hadn't come before. She knew and knew that it didn't change her feelings for him or her regard for his feelings. Besides, he was here now.

Spock registered her words. He seemed about to let the matter drop, but suddenly he stood up from his chair and placed his hands behind his back almost angrily.

"Yes," he began levelly. "That is what I told the Captain. But it was not the truth." He looked over her head toward her window as if his declaration had cost him something. She couldn't let him be so agitated over a small matter.

"Spock ... Spock, does it matter?" Christine said quietly as she looked at her book and away from his face, fingering the spine of the book lightly. "I don't mind. And you are here now."

Spock glanced down at her then and his face showed just the barest hint of appreciation at her attempt to diffuse the issue before his face became stern once more.

"It does matter, Miss Chapel. It was an act of cowardice. Illogical of me and disrespectful to you. I wish to explain my actions. It will be easier if you will allow me to speak uninterrupted before expressing your opinion."

Christine looked back at his face, unconcerned at the rather inelegant way he had asked her to be quiet. She knew whatever he was planning to say must be hard for him, or he would not be so rigid. She nodded her head. "Alright, Mr. Spock. But, please, won't you sit down?" She pointed back at his chair briefly.

"I would prefer to stand," Spock replied succinctly and she didn't press the issue.

"When you informed me several months ago that you planned on returning to medical school, I was pleased on your behalf. Your decision was, and is, quite logical. I have never thought that your research capabilities were being well utilized in your capacity as nurse, if you will forgive me for saying so."

Christine, who had been making an effort to keep her face as unemotional as possible, looked at him sharply for a moment. What did he know about her 'research capabilities?'

Spock registered her look of surprise and the corner of his mouth almost lifted in a smile as he broke his train of thought to answer her question. "You do not suppose that I have not read all the pertinent data on members of the crew, do you, Miss Chapel? I have. And I found your paper of the ancient botany studies on Orion to be quite fascinating."

Christine flushed briefly at his praise. She remembered that paper. It had been her research that made her seek out her professor, Roger Korby, after class one day. She wished to have access to his notes from the Orion ruins, and while his published papers on the subject had been readily available, she had wanted to look at his raw notes, to glean for clues. Roger had been surprised that a young student was so interested and he'd graciously allowed it ... and had taken an interest in her other research too. She had been so flattered. After a year, she had become one of his assistants. Another year later, her bio-research degree freshly minted with that paper on Orion botany as her thesis project, she had become his fiancee.

"That was a long time ago, Mr. Spock," Christine said finally, smiling slightly at her warm memories.

If Spock noticed her reminiscences, he politely ignored them as he reluctantly brought his speech back to the matter at hand.

"Not so long that you cannot return to it, Miss Chapel. But again, I digress." He looked at her ruefully. "What is it about humans that invites side shoots of conversation?" He held up his hand as if to forestall her answer. "A rhetorical question." He looked down at the table briefly. "I am allowing trifles to throw me off course. Most illogical," he said, almost to himself.

"As I was saying, your announcement was not illogical in either timing or execution and I was pleased as First Officer to see a valued member of the crew going on to further reach her potential. But as the months have gone by, I have noticed in myself a discomfort at the notion of your imminent departure and my response to it."

Christine interrupted. "Spock, if I have said anything these last months..."

Spock looked at her sharply and reminded her of her promise to wait to give her opinion.

She subsided into silence again.

Spock shook his head as if holding himself back from commenting on her interruption and continued his speech as if she had not spoken. "I have seen Dr. McCoy staring at us as if waiting for me to express some opinion on your departure. He has become..." And he looked down at the table again. "...increasingly obvious in his attempts to get a 'rise' out of me on the subject. That, in and of itself would not have been distressing, as the good doctor is a master at looking for emotion ... but for one thing ... I have been looking forward to your leaving with an assiduity that tells of more emotional involvement than is logical."

Christine just sat there. What was he saying? That he was relieved at her leaving??? She tried not to show her hurt but she knew that she wasn't being too successful. She couldn't meet his eyes; not now...

She felt rather than saw Spock sit beside her and she backed up then closed her eyes as his hand came up to brush away a tear that she had not known was there on her cheek. She didn't raise her head until a finger at her chin forced her to look up and into his eyes. What she saw in them confused her and then angered her.

He was looking at her with a sad mocking in his eyes. She pushed away from him violently and stood up.

"I think you should go now, Mr. Spock. You have made yourself quite clear." Inside she was shaking, but her voice was calm and steady.

"I do not think that is the case, Miss Chapel," his voice said sadly from directly behind her. "I know that is not the case at all." He laid a hand on her elbow to turn her to him and she violently wrenched her arm from his grip and faced him on her own. Had he come all this way just to tell her that he was glad to get rid of her? Why was he doing this?

Spock gazed straight into her eyes as he began speaking again.

"I have been looking forward to your departure because I have become increasingly aware of how you effect me and I wished it to end. It was cowardly of me." And with that he turned his face away from her to again stare out of the window.

Christine stopped her mental tirade and stared at him in shock. The conversation was beginning to get away from her... Why had his eyes softened as he stared at her as if beyond his capacity to control, before he looked away... Why was her face becoming flushed at his words?

"I ... don't understand," she said finally as she walked up behind him. "Spock, please. Help me to understand."

He wouldn't look at her, but he squared his shoulders as if steeling himself for battle.

"After Platonius," he began, his voice showing distaste for the name of the world that had forced them into their most embarrassing act, "I was afraid that our working relationship would be even more ... uncomfortable ... than it had been previously. I was afraid that I would not know how to behave around you, as I have never known how to respond to your kindness. I was soon disabused of that idea. You went out of your way to declare that you would never force your emotions on me. I was struck at how unselfishly you declared this and I felt ashamed. Ashamed that you felt it necessary to make such a statement when it is I who have been illogically threatened by your kindness. I then and there resolved to respond less as a frightened deer from your planet when you showed your innate kindness to me; kindness that you show to all aboard."

Christine reached up a hand as if to lay it on his shoulder, but pulled it back. It was too soon. He was still speaking.

"As soon as I resolved this, I found to my amazement that your actions towards me, which I had always before perceived as overly emotional, were only what you would show to any patient. I had been mistaken all of these years. So I became more relaxed in your presence. Did you notice, Christine?"

She was shocked at his use of her given name but her voice didn't show that as she answered. "Yes, Spock. I did. And I was glad of it. All I've ever wanted to do was support you. I've never wanted to cause you any discomfort."

Spock nodded and his hair glinted in the moonlight as he moved. "Yes. I know. But as time has gone on, my comfort at your working presence has become increasingly mixed with a desire for a non-working relationship. I've wished to experience your presence when we are off duty. It is not logical."

Christine couldn't stay silent anymore. She walked around him to stand in front of him, careful not to invade his personal space.

"Isn't it, Spock? You have such a relationship with Captain Kirk. Would one more be so bad? I would have been glad to be your friend. I would still be honored. We could speak of that research of mine you mentioned or of your own work. I know that the hard sciences aren't the Captain's forte. There is nothing to be ashamed of..."

"It is not proper!" Spock said angrily as he turned his back on her. "I ... do not wish for ... merely friendship," he said with increasing softness until she had to strain to hear him. "Though I would welcome that as well. I wish..." He stopped abruptly. "During the sham of a trial that the unfortunate Miss Lester put us through, you sat with me. And as I sat there, I wished nothing more than to take your hand, and feel your ... caring ... for me and forget the pain which her actions, which had Kirk's voice, were engendering in me."

Christine could see him clench his fists as he spoke and she longed to take his hand. "Would that be so wrong, Spock?" she asked quietly as she moved up slowly behind him, hoping that her increasing closeness would not make him pull away further. "Would it be so wrong to accept support and ... love?" she continued softly as she finally got up enough nerve to lay her hand on his shoulder. He shivered lightly at her touch but did not pull away.

"I am a Vulcan, Christine. Love is illogical," he said bitterly as if trying to convince himself. "It has no place in Vulcan society."

Christine closed her eyes briefly at this, her heart sobbing as she heard the pain in his voice.

"But it could have a place in your society," Christine replied, as she placed her other hand on his opposite shoulder and pressed herself gently against his back, willing him not to pull away and almost sobbing with relief when he didn't.

"Let me show you, Spock. There would no strings. You can leave here with no pain that you have hurt me. I leave for Earth tomorrow. Let me love you, Spock. Just this once. Just for now, in this moment."

Two tears flowed down her cheeks and fell onto his shoulder. God, who could have hurt him so much? She wanted to soothe the hurt; take it away from him ...

She pulled away slightly as she felt him turning towards her and looked up into his eyes which showed the battle raging within him.

"Please, Spock," she said softly as she reached up her hand and stroked his face, as she had so long ago, even as she tilted her face close to his to brush her lips against his unresponsive ones. "Just this once. Let me ... "

"I am a Vulcan," he whispered again, more to himself than her. But he never took his eyes from hers and she could see in their depths that he was losing the battle to turn and walk away.

"No," she whispered back, her fingertips lightly touching his lips to silence his protests. "Not tonight, Spock. No rank, no titles, no roles to play. Just you and me, as we are. Just a man and a woman ... alone with each other."

His eyes searched hers and she could feel their bodies beginning to come together. "Let go, Spock," she breathed, her arms sliding up around his neck. "Just for a while ... A very little while..." With infinite slowness, their faces moved into closer proximity as if drawn by a mysterious, magnetic force.

Her words trailed off as she looked up into his eyes and saw the haunted expression give way to helpless surrender. Then, with a soft sigh, his arms stole around her fiercely and his lips descended on her own. And as she urged his kiss ever deeper and stronger and sweeter, she stroked his back with a desperate gentleness and willed him to let go of every feeling but this joy.

As their kiss ended, Christine reached behind her and grasped his hands that were gripping her waist convulsively. Slowly, she brought them up between them and kissed each palm, rubbing his fingers gently between her own to soothe the tension in them. Then she pulled him towards the bedroom, her eyes never leaving his. He came willingly.

At the threshold, she stopped.

"Spock?" she asked softly, letting go of his hands to run her own up his arms until they reached his collarbone and neck. "Are you sure that you want this?" She stilled her hands which had been caressing his neck. She had not stopped staring at him. "I don't want you to regret this ... to feel that I've coerced you..."

She closed her eyes then, not wanting the desire she knew was registering in her eyes to influence his next words. She wanted so much to be with him, but not if he would regret it later. She didn't think she could bear to see him look at her with shame or rejection afterward. She would rather stay almost-friends, than that...

Her thoughts were stilled when she felt herself being lifted off the floor into his arms. She opened her eyes, her relief melting into tender affection as she gazed upon his face, which showed desire and appreciation for her concern for his feelings, but no desperation. And most importantly, no hard determination to do this and be done with it.

He carried her into the bedroom and placed her gently on the bed, stretching his lanky frame beside and atop her, taking her into his arms again. Willingly, she drew him down to her, capturing his lips, feeling the heat of his body radiating through the filmy robe she wore. She ran her hands over his back, feeling the hard muscles beneath the soft blue fabric, a dichotomy of textures that delighted her.

As he kissed her face and her throat, he shifted position slightly and moved his right leg between hers. She responded by sliding her bare foot up the length of his lower leg. The leather of his tall boot was smooth and cool against her toes, then they met the rougher fabric of his flared pants hem and she eased past that until her toes found the top of his boot and teased the warm skin of his leg.

The sensation excited him further and he drew her harder against him, his lips again on hers, hungrily this time, his tongue playing against hers and exploring her mouth. She pulled at his uniform tunic, found the black t-shirt underneath and pulled that up as well, then slipped her hands along the smooth lines of his back. He responded by pulling away a little and peeling both the tunic and undershirt off over his head and dropping them to the floor.

She caught her breath as he drew her back against his bare chest. She had seen his body before, during medical examinations or stretched upon the operating table, but those had been clinical situations. She had touched his body as a nurse ministering to a patient, but never had she caressed him as a woman loving a man. Never before had she run her fingers lightly over the firm pectorals or muscular shoulders. Never before had she stroked her nails through the crisp dark hair on his chest or across the stiffened masculine nipples that nestled there. Never slipped her palms over his solid biceps and onto his strong back then down until they played along the smooth skin at the waistband of his pants.

For his part, Spock held her eyes with his, running his fingers along her forehead and lingering on her temple for a long moment.

To Christine, he looked as if he was reciting something mentally to himself as he touched her face, but she didn't ask him to speak it aloud. She leaned into his touch instead and closed her eyes as a subtle warmth stole into her. Then as he pulled away, she looked at him and smiled, marveling at the warmth a simple touch had engendered in her. She laughed inwardly at herself. He'd always affected her that way. When he'd touched her cheek all those years ago in his cabin, she had felt the same, though not as strongly as now. It was almost obscene how easily he melted her heart.

He pulled out of her arms and sat up on the side of the bed, bending to remove his boots. She could see the muscles in his back ripple beneath his skin.

Suddenly, he looked up at her in the midst of his taking his first boot off and his eyes smiled ever so slightly at her, though his face barely registered a change. Then, catching her by surprise, he turned so that he was sitting facing her and leaned back on his hands, holding one leg up with the obvious intent that she remove his boots.

Christine laughed and got up onto her knees, grasped the heel and toe of the tall black boot and pulled. After a few seconds of resistance, it moved and she fell backwards as it abruptly slid off his foot. She repeated the operation with his other foot. As she got up to set the boots aside, he stood and turned his attention to his remaining clothing.

And Christine thought, as she watched him return to his task, that he couldn't help but see her desire. Her face had to be giving her away. She must be so obvious to him ... an open book...

And she found that she couldn't be embarrassed at him seeing her stare at him...

So she watched unreservedly as he stood slightly bent at the waist, looking down towards his feet, and slowly shed his pants, briefs, and socks before her. And she couldn't help but run her tongue over her suddenly dry lips as his penis, long and thick and tilted slightly towards her, came into view.

She stared at him for a moment more and he stared back at her frankly, his face unreadable; then he turned again towards the chair beside him and began to fold up the clothes that remained in his hand. His simple act of tidying up his belongings galvanized her at last and she reached her hands up to her own throat and began to pull at the seam that sealed her robe about her body.

She had just gotten one arm out from the robe when Spock came up to her and stopped her, his large hand moving to her waist. She found that she couldn't keep from staring into his eyes, which seemed to burn incongruously within his calm, impassive face. His hand held her still at her waist while his other hand slid her robe off her other arm.

He moved his arms behind her to unclasp her bra then dropped the garment to the floor, and she shivered slightly as the cool air of the room hit her breasts. Her breathing grew shallow as he stared at her nipples, hardening under his gaze, and she waited impatiently. She knew that he would touch them and her skin tingled in anticipation of his fingers cupping her breasts, of his tongue running over her.

But he reached for her hands instead, placing them into the arms of her robe and pulling the gauzy fabric back up to her shoulders. She looked at him in shocked confusion as he pressed back closed the seam of her robe, carefully avoiding her breasts as he smoothed the seam in place in the valley between them.

Her shock grew as he knelt in front of her, slid his hands up under the hem of her robe, and ever so carefully lifted the fabric up to her waist, again touching her skin as little as possible.

She felt herself grow hot and wet as he pulled down her panties and let the fabric of her robe fall back to her ankles. She stepped out of her undergarment, almost without thought, and then closed her eyes and moaned as she felt his nose hesitantly brush up against the thin fabric of her robe to press into her short, tangled hair. She gripped his shoulders tightly as he inhaled deeply, his hands moving to her buttocks to pull her to him with slowly increasing urgency. The hot moistness from his slightly open mouth as he breathed against her with increasingly shallow, panting breaths produced another hot, dripping gush from her and she knew that she would not be able to stand much longer...

Then she found that she didn't have to, as his arms came up aggressively under her buttocks, and lifted her up. And as he tilted her back onto the slick sheets, she found herself arching into his mouth as he closed his lips over her gauze covered folds and sucked roughly at the wetness between her dark lips as a man possessed.

Through the thin fabric, his tongue worked against her, the faint roughness adding an extra dimension of stimulation. He kissed and stroked her until the filmy cloth was dripping wet and she felt she would go mad. Then, he lifted his lips from her and very gently opened the seal of the robe, exposing her genitals completely for the first time. The gauzy robe had hidden nothing but the sensation of being truly naked to his view caused her to surge with excitement.

And then he bent to her again and this time there was nothing between his seeking mouth and her flesh. He sucked her gently, teasing her with the tip of his tongue, running it up and down her quivering folds. Then, as he pulled her swollen nub back into his mouth and worked it with his hot tongue, he slowly slipped two long fingers into her, pushing as far in as they would go, then lightly thrust them in and out of her passage.

It was too much. Christine reared her hips up against his mouth and exploded in an intense orgasm. He held her firm, keeping up both his oral and manual manipulation. She buried her fingers in his thick black hair and kept him where he was until she finally gave a last spasm and collapsed limply on the bed.

Only then did he lift his head and pull his fingers from her body. He moved farther up her body until his face was level with her full breasts, still covered by her sealed robe, and there he started all over again. Through the thin, nearly transparent fabric, he could see the dark pink areolae and nipples of her breasts, and he bent to tease his tongue around one such tempting target.

The touch of his mouth through the cloth brought a shiver of arousal pulsing through her and she instinctively arched her back up, pushing her breasts further out. With one hand, he kneaded and massaged one breast while he sucked the other one, his fingers squeezing and rolling one turgid nipple while his tongue worked the other against the roof of his mouth.

Christine dug her nails into his shoulders, tossing her head from side to side as her excitement increased. Then he switched breasts and repeated it all on the opposite one. The wetness of his saliva on the nipple he'd just been sucking felt icy and her already straining flesh hardened further in the cool room air.

Then he raised himself from her and finished opening the seam of her robe, spreading the garment apart and baring her flushed breasts. Again, the sensation of being totally naked further aroused her and he again sucked her engorged nipples into his mouth, rougher this time, and faster until she writhed beneath him.

And there was an added element this time. As he moved up further onto her body, she could feel his throbbing penis beginning to probe into the swollen, wet folds of her groin. She was so hot by now that she instinctively spread her legs wider for him, a blatant invitation to his searching manhood. But he deliberately held back, teasing her but never allowing any penetration.

At last, when Christine felt ready to scream, Spock lifted his head from her breasts and drew himself up fully onto her, positioning her slick, sweating body underneath his. "Are you ready for me?" he asked softly, gazing into her face. "Have I stimulated you adequately?"

She groaned and panted, on the verge of orgasm once more. "Oh, God, yes ... I want you in me, Spock. I need you in me -- now!"

"Then I will delay no longer," he murmured in his rich, deep voice and immediately dipped his pelvis and thrust it against hers. The long, hard shaft pushed into her with ease and, with two powerful shoves, he was buried completely within her.

She cried out and clutched at him, throwing her head back in ecstasy. All the times she had dreamed of having him, all the times she had fantasized about this moment -- they could not compete with actuality. The solid reality of his thick, rigid organ moving slickly within her, his pelvis pounding against hers, the weight of his body pressing her into the mattress, his fingers gripping her shoulders to hold her steady, his breath coming quick and hard against her mouth...

She held him and savored him and loved him, not a dream any longer, but a flesh and blood man, real and acutely alive in her arms. She opened her eyes to find him watching her face intently as he moved above her, and his dark brown eyes held an emotion she had never seen there before. And as she lay beneath him, his face so close to hers, she could not look away from his eyes. She sank into their entrancing depths, sank into his soul, sank into a warmth and longing that folded around her and swept her away. Christine... he whispered to her in that wonderful voice that never failed to stir her senses. Her name was a caress, an endearment, and that one word embodied years of things he had wanted to say but could not because of who he was, what he was. So engrossed was she in the incredible sensation that it never occurred to her to wonder that his lips hadn't moved when he'd spoken her name.

Breaking his steady gaze, he bent his face into the hollow between her neck and her shoulder, his thrusts slowing but increasing in intensity. He felt hard as a rock within her. And then his fingers gripped her almost painfully, and he gasped and pumped deep into her and she felt him come, the force of his orgasm lifting her hips off the mattress.

For a long moment, she soared with him to the heights of his soul, feeling as if the blazing light of a nova was flooding into her very core. It was indescribable, like nothing she had ever experienced with any other lover she had known. Emotions, alien and human, gripped her and held her close, tearing her apart and reassembling her with their chaotic force. And at the heart of it was Spock, pouring all that he was into her, becoming one with her, fusing them into a single being.

And then he sagged limply against her, once more simply a man, and she slipped her arms around his shoulders and held him close, his face nestled against hers. She could feel his breath against her throat, slowly returning to normal. He lay in her arms for what seemed like a long time, and she drank in the wonderful sensation of his being there, loving him more than ever. Then he seemed to realize that he must be crushing her and lifted himself off her, moving to settle back against her, drawing her sweat-slick body close to his.

"I did not know it could be like this," he murmured after a while. He raised himself slightly to look into her face, his dark eyes soft as he gazed into her warm blue ones. "Why did I wait until the last possible moment to know you?"

She reached up to caress his beloved features. "Because it's safe now. We'll likely never see each other again when we leave here, so there's no danger."

"Then I am a coward," he answered, his voice dropping to a lower register, the haunted look beginning to come back to his eyes. "How much pleasure and comfort have I denied both of us because I would not face the truth?"

Shaking her head slightly, she took his face between both her hands. "No, Spock. Don't do this to yourself. If it was meant to happen, it would have. There's a very old Earth saying. Que sera, sera."

"What will be, will be," he translated.

"Yes. We just weren't meant to 'be'. I will always love you. That won't change, but the two of us having a life together..." She sighed and closed her eyes for a second. "I've come to terms with that. You'll be going back out into space in a few hours and I'll be going back to Earth. Our paths came together for a while and now they're parting again." She shrugged lightly. "Perhaps they'll come back together sometime in the future. Who knows?"

He sighed and stroked the damp hair away from her face. "I would fervently hope that would be the case."

"Meanwhile, we still have this time together. Let's not waste any of it in regrets about the past or what might have been. I want to love you, Spock, over and over again before we have to leave. I want us to part with the memory of this time together."

A degree of wonder and a fresh longing for her crept over his features. Without speaking further, he bent and brought his lips down onto hers once again. They kissed and probed against each other's tongues, then he rolled over onto his back and took her with him, settling her atop him. Astride his hips, she leaned into his arms, continuing to trade kisses with him, and she began to feel him coming erect as his arousal grew.

She pushed herself up with her hands resting on his strong shoulders and gazed down at him in delight. He looked back at her, his eyes saying what his impassive expression did not, save for a little hint of a smile that lifted the corners of his lips. Then, dropping his gaze, he focused on her full breasts, provocatively bared between the folds of the sheer robe she still wore.

Reaching up, he cupped her breasts in his large hands and fondled them, stroking her nipples up to full extension with his thumbs. Christine gave a soft moan deep in her throat and moved her head back, exposing her throat and thrusting her chest out a little more. She felt him pulse between her legs as she did so, and his hands tightened a little as he massaged her. Then he lifted his head and pulled her to him, taking her nipples into his mouth and sucking them, back and forth, one after the other.

She enjoyed the exquisite sensation for a few moments then she pulled away from him. "It's my turn to make love to you," she whispered. Straightening, still astride him, she rid herself of the robe and then leaned back over him, taking his mouth in a long, passionate kiss. He attempted to pull her closer, but she resisted and moved back out of his arms.

"Just lie there and let yourself enjoy it," she said. His brows twitched up in surprise, then he obeyed, plainly curious at what she intended to do to him.

She kissed him again, holding his face between her hands, her tongue pushing against his for a long moment. As she explored his lips and mouth, her fingertips moved to brush through his sleek, dark hair and then delineate the curve of his ears, lightly tracing along the sharp tips.

He shivered and, although her mouth still covered his, his voice said clearly to her, That tickles...

She pulled away and looked down at him in amazement. "What?"

"That tickles," he said aloud.

"No, what did you just do?"

He looked a little contrite. "I am afraid my control must have slipped a bit. I did not intend for you to hear that. But our close contact is making that difficult."

"Have you mind-melded with me?"

"No, but our intense intimacy just now is having much the same effect. I shall endeavor to keep my thoughts to myself."

She smiled, a little mischievously. "I like it," she answered. "I'll just have to see where else you're ticklish, won't I?"

That did send his eyebrows soaring, but he didn't say anything, clearly inviting her to continue. She did so, bending back to him and kissing his throat, then moving down to his collarbone and onto the muscles of his chest. She scooted down as she did so, off his hips, and his erect penis bobbed free of the confinement of her body. She gave it an appraising glance but did not touch it. That was yet to come.

She bent back to his chest and spent some time massaging his firm pectoral muscles and teasing his small, hard nipples with the tip of her tongue. She sucked him much as he had done to her and was pleased when she brought a soft moan from his lips. Moving down, she trailed her kisses down his taut stomach to his navel. His flesh quivered underneath her mouth and she concluded that this part of him was ticklish as well, but she did not indulge her knowledge. She didn't want to ruin the mood she was building.

Instead, she dipped into his navel with her tongue and teased him that way, then closed her mouth over him and sucked gently. He flinched, not as if in pain, but from the stimulus she was using. Then she moved even lower and softly trailed kisses across his abdomen. He shuddered again, harder, and she saw one of his hands grip the sheets on the bed as her hair brushed across the pulsing shaft now lying hard against his belly.

And here she paused and looked at him frankly. His erection was pleasingly large, not so huge as to be out of proportion with the rest of him, but impressive nevertheless. She had already experienced how completely it filled her, as if made to fit her exactly. The sallow tone of his skin had flushed a darker tint as blood had engorged his swollen member, almost an olive color, and it nestled against the dark thatch of hair at its base.

As she reached to touch him, she asked softly, "Has anyone ever done this to you, Spock?" She didn't want to do anything he might find objectionable or painful. She wanted to bring him as much pleasure as she could in their short time together.

"No," he answered in a slightly strained voice.

She glanced up at his face to find him lying with his eyes closed, passive but with a sense of anticipation about him.

"I won't hurt you, I promise. If you want me to stop, just say so. If you don't like it, again, say so and we'll do something else. Okay?"

He gave a fractional nod and wet his dry lips, ready. She sighed a little. He was obviously eager for this new experience, but couldn't help but be apprehensive. She would need to go slow and carefully to make sure he enjoyed it fully.

Gently, she slipped her hand underneath his shaft and closed her fingers over it. The texture was firm and smooth, his skin feeling dry and silky to her touch. Lightly, she began to stroke him, from the enlarged tip to the base, over and over, watching his reaction.

He reached back one hand over his head and gripped the pillow, his breathing rate increasing somewhat. Satisfied that he would let her continue, she bent to begin the next step. At first, she only breathed her hot breath onto the head and inhaled the odor of his body. The musky scent of semen still clung to him from his previous ejaculation, along with other masculine aromas, and she drank them in, savoring his smell.

Then she brought her lips down and kissed him. He flinched reflexively and she gave him a moment to assimilate the sensation. Afterwards, she kissed him again and this time added a soft swirl with the tip of her tongue, tasting him for the first time. He groaned and the muscles of his belly contracted, but otherwise, he did not move. Pleased, she ran her tongue flat over the smooth surface of the tip, then kissed her way down to the base, softly caressing him the whole time. Gauging his reaction, she moved on and this time, dropped a warm kiss on his testicles. He gasped and jerked, his eyes flying open in surprise, then made an effort to keep still.

Christine appraised his reaction and determined that he hadn't much liked that last ploy, so she moved back up, deciding to concentrate on his penis. As if she hadn't noticed his shock, she calmly retraced her pathway up the throbbing shaft to the head. When she judged that he was ready, she gently drew him into her mouth and began to softly suck him.

Immediately, his respiration deepened to almost a pant and again he gripped the sheets convulsively. "Christine ... ohhh," he gasped, then couldn't get out the rest of whatever he was going to say. She increased the suction she was exerting, feeling him grow still harder against the roof of her mouth.

The hand that had been grasping the sheets moved to her head and his fingers buried themselves in her hair. Even here he maintained some control of himself, because he was careful to exert only enough pressure to guide her movements. Both were well aware that with his enormous strength he was capable of killing her. His other hand came down and joined its mate tangling into her hair, and he kept her where she was, bent to the delightful torture she was inflicting on him.

And finally he spoke to her mind, unable to get coherent sound past his gasping throat. I am very near, Christine ... Do you wish to continue like this to the end?

She didn't know if she could communicate with him mentally, but she thought back, I'll do whatever you want me to. I only want you to have as much pleasure as possible.

She must have reached him, because he said aloud, "Stop for a moment ... please."

She released him and raised up, leaving him wet and slick with her saliva. His brow knotting almost in pain, he shut his eyes and reached down to grasp himself, squeezing hard. He seemed to be fighting an internal battle, then after a few minutes he relaxed a little and released his hold, opening his eyes again to look at her.

He drew her back up into his arms and crushed his lips to hers, sampling the odd taste of himself on her tongue. But then he pulled back a little and peered into her eyes. "I find it more pleasing to be within your body," he said softly. "Feeling you around me greatly intensifies the sensation of mating."

She laughed gently. "Is that what we're doing? I thought it was just a good, old fashioned roll in the hay."

He looked puzzled. "Hay? There is no--"

"It's just an expression, Spock. It means that there is no commitment between us, that we're just enjoying each other sexually."

He seemed to accept that then turned back to what he was saying. "You brought me very near to climax," he told her. "But I want you to be as aroused as I. It is better when both reach orgasm simultaneously."

She smiled and nuzzled her nose against his, interspersing her answer with soft kisses to his lips. "That sounds like there are things you never told anyone, Spock! Just who exactly have you been getting this experience with?"

He gave her one of his inscrutable looks and matched her teasing gaze. "This is not my first sexual encounter, Christine. It is a complete myth that Vulcans only have sex every seven years. I am quite capable of sexual activity anytime I choose."

She grinned. "I could tell! That opening performance was incredible, but hardly the work of an amateur!"

"And I am rapidly losing my desire to continue here. We have engaged in too much conversation and not enough direct activity."

"Then let's get back to work," she murmured and slipped her arms around his neck, bringing her lips down into his. He reciprocated, pulling her closer and deepening their kiss. As their tongues fenced and danced together, he gently moved her into position atop his body and she settled back astride him, pinning his erection between them. It throbbed against her sensitive center and her excitement rose quickly.

He could feel it in her and, their mouths still locked in a passionate kiss, he moved his fingertips into position around her face. They already had a link partially established but she still caught her breath when she felt his presence slip gently into her mind. It was as if she had inhaled him and taken his essence into her soul. She could feel him inside her, all of him, and she remembered the only time before when she had felt this way -- when Sargon had placed Spock's consciousness into her as he destroyed the evil Henoch. That time, Spock had cocooned himself against too close contact with her, not yet willing to let her see too much of him. But now it was different. This time he invited her to join with him, to understand him.

She twined her psyche into his and they swirled together like wisps of fog combining in the air. She suddenly understood him intimately, all that he was, all that he hoped, all that had made him the man she thought she knew. All of it so carefully hidden beneath the layer of Vulcan stoicism that he presented to the world. She saw and experienced the things that made him Vulcan, as well, and some of these things she did not understand. They were too alien, too far outside her scope of experience.

And it was here that she found the source of his anguish, the fear and hurt that had kept him so rigidly correct, so formal in their relationship. The reasons why he had not permitted himself to love her. The love was there, but imprisoned so securely behind the locked doors that held his emotions, he was barely aware of it. Until now.

That love burst up around her and enveloped her, love in many variations. He loved her strength and dedication, her caring nature, her friendship. But he was Vulcan and he had been prevented from speaking of it or showing it. Love was not in the Vulcan vocabulary. It was bad taste, socially taboo, completely against the mores of the culture in which he had been raised. A Vulcan simply did not love.

But this Vulcan did, despite everything he did to prevent it. The human part of him, the human influence screamed within him to be set free, to be able to feel friendship and love, for the people he worked with and especially for the woman whose body and mind he now shared. For he felt something else when he thought of her. He wanted her sexually, wanted to feel the physical joining of their bodies, to hold her and caress her, to enter her and take her to the same soaring climactic peak he achieved, to feel her heat and fire merging with his.

That fire was building now between them. Christine became aware that she had taken him fully into her once more, that he was pumping his hips gently up against hers, each motion driving him deep into her sensitized passage. The realization sent a surge of excitement through her and she almost involuntarily clamped down on him in reaction.

She felt the echoing surge from him both through their mindlink and as he reflexively shoved harder up into her. It delighted her and she began to meet his movements with a rhythmic rocking of her own. His arousal poured through her and she could feel what he was feeling, the sensation of being gripped and stroked by her hot, moist interior.

She leaned forward and rested her hands on his shoulders, picking up her pace. The position caused her clitoris to rub over and over again against the base of his penis and the springy hair that mantled it. In her aroused condition, the stimulus drove her quickly toward a soaring orgasm. She straightened, her hands sliding down his chest to rest lightly on his stomach, and she rode his hard shaft stronger and faster, wanting him as deep inside her as possible.

In answer, he gripped her hips and held her tight against him, his eyes closed as he concentrated on the imminent explosion building in his groin. The pressure became almost unbearable, his penis engorged to a rock-like hardness and the swollen, nerve-packed head absolutely drowning in her heat and slickness.

And then he felt her climax and the blast of sensation that slammed into his mind from hers blew away his last thread-like vestige of control. Even as she cried out and bucked against him, he arched up beneath her, holding her tight to his straining pelvis, and came into her like an erupting volcano.

He seemed to fill her for an endless time, then gradually the euphoria began to fade and she slipped limply down into his arms. He drew her into a soft kiss, then she moved off him and settled into his embrace, resting her head on his shoulder.

"You're right, Spock," she whispered. "It is better when we get there together."

Her eyes closed in satiated weariness and he was surprised to find in a few minutes that she had fallen asleep.

He lay simply holding her, listening to her even breathing, and enjoying their last time together. He did not especially need to sleep now, but he allowed himself to doze lightly, knowing that his internal chronometer would wake him well before it was time to go.

And so the night passed with the two of them cuddled together in the darkened hotel room, while the surf hissed and crashed upon the beach nearby. And he found that simply holding a woman in the warm afterglow of love was as fulfilling and pleasing an act as the frantic, fevered joining itself.

And too soon ... too soon it was over.

Before he was ready for it to end, the night was fading with the rosy glow of dawn and it was almost time for them to part. She lay cradled in the protective shelter of his embrace, one arm across his chest, holding him loosely in her sleep. Long, dark lashes lay against her cheeks and her mussed, blonde hair framed her face like a halo. Looking down at her beautiful face, touched with the blush of the new dawn light, he felt his heart stir with unaccustomed emotion and he knew that he must love her one more time, a last time. Gently, he kissed her eyelids, then her cheek, and then her lips, awaking her.

She stretched her lush body against him, as languid as a cat, and slipped fully into his arms, lifting her mouth up to his, caught in the surreal sensation of an erotic dream turned to reality. In her dream, Spock had come to her at long last and had taken her into his bed, loving her with a passion that she had never suspected in him. And then she slowly came to realize that it was no dream. His mouth was really moving upon hers, his large, strong hands were really caressing her back, his hot, muscular body was really pressed along the length of hers, the urgency of his need for her throbbing against her groin.

He pulled away from her just a little and looked deeply into her eyes, still soft and half-lidded from sleep. He didn't need to ask her aloud the question that was in his eyes, for she answered it with an adoring little smile and by sinking back close into his arms, offering her face up to his, her love and desire for him plain upon her face.

The surge of his reaction was unmistakable. She felt it through his skin, through his mind, through the throb of his manhood against the ready sanctuary of her femininity. And she echoed that readiness back to him, permission to unleash the eager emotion that strained to be free. Capturing her lips, he rolled her onto her back and moved over her, devouring her with hungry kisses. She responded quickly, answering the fire she felt roaring in him, and opened herself to him with sleep-tinged willingness.

They did not speak as he entered her and began to move within her, gently at first then with increasing fervor. There was no need for words between them, for their hearts spoke more eloquently than lips. Eyes closed, she simply held him as he thrust himself into her again and again, feeling his urgency, his need, savoring the caring and love that his mind wrapped around hers.

When the heat of his passion at last reached a crescendo and he filled her a final time with his flame and fervor, she clutched his hard, straining body against hers and found that she could not let him go.

"Spock ... " she whispered, tears leaking from her closed eyes. He pressed his forehead against hers, still holding her, still firmly within her, his breathing ragged in the aftermath of his climax.

She reached up and clasped his beloved face between her hands and brought his mouth to hers, long and hungrily and beseechingly. Spock... her mind whispered to his. Oh, my darling Spock... How can I tell you what I feel?

He pulled away a bit and caressed her face. You do not have to tell me, his thoughts replied. I know... I have always known...

He kissed her again. Then, when he lifted his lips, he said softly, "It is time, Christine. I cannot stay any longer."

She drew him down into a fervent embrace, relishing the feel of him for just a moment longer, cementing his presence in her memories. "Thank you, Spock," she whispered. "Thank you for this night. You've given me a memory I will cherish for the rest of my life."

He raised himself off her and looked down into her soft blue eyes. "You too have given me a memory that will be special to me," he answered, gently wiping a tear from her cheek. "As you will always be special to me, Christine." His dark eyes held hers for a long moment, then he gently lifted himself from her and got out of bed.

He retrieved his clothing and retreated into the bathroom to clean up and dress. She lay alone for a moment longer, then wiped her tears away and rose as well, finding less provocative clothing than the sheer robe she had worn when he had arrived at her door. When he came out of the bathroom, dressed again in his uniform but in his stocking feet, she was waiting by the window, looking out at the ocean, shimmering bronze and gold in the dawn light.

She turned to watch him as he sat down on the edge of the bed and pulled his boots on. She loved watching him do such an ordinary task, loved the intimacy of it and, as he stood, fully dressed now as she had so often seen him, she moved before him.

"Well, Spock," she said in a half-successful attempt to sound as if she were speaking to him in a typical conversation. "Where do you go now?"

His voice was a little rough, soft, but held the same tone as hers. "We have an assignment to pick up the ambassador from Mizaria and transport him to a trade negotiation conference on Beta Cignae 3." His voice faltered for a second as he looked into her azure-colored eyes. "Quite an ordinary mission. And you, Christine ... you leave today?"

"Yes. I have to be on Earth and settled in within the week. Classes start in 10 days." She was gazing up steadfastly at him, drinking in his features, remembering every line and curve of his face -- the sweep of his brows above the dark-lashed eyes, his high cheekbones and prominent nose, his solemn mouth and strong chin, the exotic, alien peak of his ears, the sleek, black hair... As if she could forget him ... as if she could ever forget ...

"I ... I know you will do well," he answered. "I trust that you will keep in touch with your ... friends on the Enterprise?" There was a faint hopeful note in his voice and she interpreted it to mean that he was included in that group.

"I'll try," she replied softly. "I'll be awfully busy with classes and studying, though. I may not be able to write often."

His eyebrow twitched up faintly. "Understood. May I express my best wishes to you in your endeavors ... and say that it has been a ... a pleasure serving with you?" His eyes were locked onto hers and his voice had sunk into the husky whisper that had never failed to move her.

"The same to you, Spock," she answered in a trembling, barely audible voice. "It has been a pleasure ... been a pl ... Oh, Spock!" And she flung her arms around his neck, unable to hold the charade any longer. He caught her and held her tightly, then kissed her long and hard, years of unspoken promises and emotions passing between them in that final, aching embrace.

Then he pushed her reluctantly away and stepped back from her. "Goodbye, Christine," he whispered. "I wish you peace and long life."

Her throat was too tight to answer him, her eyes shimmering with tears as she stood watching him move to the center of the room and reach behind him to retrieve his communicator. "Spock to Enterprise," he said into the device. "Ready to transport."

He stuck the communicator back onto his belt and stood facing her, his gaze never leaving her eyes. As the transporter effect took him and he dissolved into the golden dazzles of dematerialization, the faintest of whispers stirred in her mind.

I lo...

Then he was gone.

She bit back a sob and answered, "Goodbye, Spock. I love you, too."

And she turned back to her room to finish packing for her trip home.